What if I told you the story of a dangerous killer targeting women but gave you the necessary tools to increase your chances of not falling prey?
Would you listen?
If yes, please keep reading but if not, then this article isn’t for you.
I’ve recently teamed up with WomenHeart to help raise awareness of this important issue. Not only is heart disease the number one killer of women but we Black women have a higher risk for heart disease than our white counterparts.
Heart Disease is the leading killer of women worldwide and in most cases, it IS preventable. Yes, you read that correctly, it can be stopped dead in its tracks with just a few lifestyle modifications. Although breast cancer gets most of the promotion, 1 in 3 women die each year from heart disease or stroke which is more than ALL cancers combined. Right now about 1 in 30 women die from cancer. I would never say the power of cancer awareness efforts is bad because it is far from that and frankly it has enabled more women to get regular screenings, but it does shadow the real killer of women out there which of course is heart disease.
Before breaking down ways to increase your chances of not suffering from heart disease, let us first go into detail about the ins and outs of this leading killer of women. I want to preface this by stressing that I am not a physician and all stats and scientific information written in this article come from the premiere patient education site for all things heart, CardioSmart.
Many of us women under 55 think we are invincible. We hear Heart Disease and immediately think “older persons” problem and I’m here to explain how that couldn’t be farther from the truth. With our poor diets and sedentary lifestyles, more and more young women are increasing their chances of developing heart disease and it is serious!
What is Heart Disease?
Heart disease describes various condition that affect the heart. They range from heart attacks to genetic defects to problems with your vessels. The real issue with heart disease is that most often than not, it is other diseases or conditions that up the risk factor. These include but are not limited to high blood pressure, diabetes, being obese, and high cholesterol.
Some of you reading may say to yourselves- “Sheesh, I’m good because I don’t have any of those” and that’s GREAT! But then my question is…. Do you know? How often do you have your blood pressure checked? Have you ever done a bio metric screening that checks your cholesterol? Do you know your family medical history as it pertains to matters of the heart? Are you a smoker or have smoked? Do you smoke hookah? Are you inactive but because of your size think that you are healthy?
Ladies this threat is serious and we must be armed.
Although this article focuses on women, heart disease is the leading killer of men worldwide as well. It is just a little more particular for women because often, our signs and symptoms are atypical aka, they aren’t regular. I won’t go into specifics on these because I do want everyone to have this chat with their doctor or health practitioner but remember this- women are more likely than men to have heart attack symptoms unrelated to chest pain. Our symptoms range from unusual fatigue to neck, jaw, shoulder and abdominal discomfort and feeling lightheaded or dizzy. You won’t find too many women clutching their chest to signal a heart attack may be occurring.
Let’s move towards discussing what is heart disease to how to prevent it. Because in the end prevention is key. Prevention is our only chance against this dangerous killer.
Ways to Prevent Heart Disease
Number 1- Know your family history. Talk to your family and your physician about risk factors from your findings. Get screened.
Number 2- GET MOVING! Most of us hold jobs that require us to sit for hours and hours on end staring or typing away at a computer. Before we know it 4 hours have gone by and we have not gotten up from our desks. Heck we even get food delivered to our offices and sit at our desks to eat it. This is detrimental to our health!! Sitting is the new smoking and it is linked to major health issues such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Many of us do not get the recommended 30 minutes of exercise a day. We often go home and sit in front of the TV watching shows or back to typing away at our computers or phones. The scary part of it- studies have shown that the effects of long-term sitting are NOT reversible through exercise or other good habits!
Lifestyle Modification for sitting too much
- Instead of sending a quick email to a co-worker, why not walk to their desk or office and tell them in person.
- Instead of conference calls or sit down meetings, arrange a walking meeting and walk around the office whether indoors or outside.
- Add 15 minute breaks in your calendar to remind you to get up and walk.
- Take the stairs at work instead of the elevator.
- Instead of happy hour with your friends, why not socialize in a fitness class. P.s. FlyWheel Sports is great!
- Get a standing desk at work or home.
- During binge TV watching sessions, do small toning or cardiovascular exercises during commercial breaks. If no commercial breaks, then get up and stretch and walk around the house at the end of each episode.
- Get a dog. Studies have proven that having a pet forces most to get more active!
- Treat housecleaning like a work out. Get on your hands and knees and scrub those floors.
Number 3- You ARE what you EAT. We all know that proper nutrition is everything! You don’t have to go vegan or eat no carbs to be healthy. Balance is key. One of the absolute best ways of eating for heart health is the Mediterranean Diet. No, we aren’t talking tons of feta and gyros but instead eating primarily plant based foods and using herbs and spices to flavor food over salt. You can read more about this type of eating here. Basically, lay off the Big Macs!
Number 4- Meditate! Yes, meditate. Learn to de stress. Let the worries go and learn to quiet the mind and live IN the moment. Stress physically affects the body so take 10-15 minutes a day to just clear your head. My favorite tool/ app for meditation and just overall mental wellness is called HAPPIFY. This app uses science based activities like games to improve mood and build resiliency. I’m kind of obsessed! I also love HEADSPACE for guided meditations. Besides meditating another great way to eliminate or help improve stress in life is to walk away from bad relationships. Whether familial, romantic, professional or platonic, keeping the wrong types of people in your life can increase your change of developing heart disease. Why? Stress, stress and more stress. And frankly- if people are not on board in helping you improve in all facets of life, they need to go!
Number 5- STOP SMOKING! That includes hookah. Most of us know that cigarettes are the devil and either quit or don’t start but smoking hookah negatively affects the heart and lungs as well. Although a water pipe, hookah still has toxins that damage the organs. Hookah smoking is not a safe alternative. So stop it!
Again, I am not a physician. I am just a regular girl like of you trying to raise awareness to a silent killer. Although I keep myself very well informed, I do not know it all. I do however, highly suggest taking ownership of your own care and educate yourselves. By taking ownership, I do not mean start running experiments on yourself but instead BE PROACTIVE! Sites like CardioSmart are chock full with wonderful resources to educate and empower.
Let’s all work together to stop this killer in his tracks.
p.s. hope you are all reading this on your tablets or iphones while doing something active!
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